News International (Pakistan)
December 16, 2003

Finance Minister hails services of AKRSP

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Shuakat Aziz on Monday lauded the achievements of Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) and pledged the government's firm backing to the initiative.

"The government has recently underwritten the $238 million second tranche to the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, which I am told is a strong supporter of the RSPs and is increasingly becoming a major development partner," he said, while speaking at the inaugural conference on "lesions in development - the AKRSP experience," here.

Others who spoke on the occasion included State Bank Governor Dr Ishrat Husain, who delivered the keynote address, and Chairman of the AKRSP, Iqbal Walchee. Hailing the services of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the finance minister said the people of Pakistan are indebted to him for envisioning and executing an experiment in probably the most difficult terrain anywhere in the world.

"What is more insightful is that this experiment from the beginning had set out to create a 'replicable model' of rural development, which it did, and did 10 times over within a span of merely two decades in Pakistan and also took the model across South Asia through the UNDP to other counties," the minister said.

He added that currently there were 10 Rural Support Programmes (RSPs) in Pakistan. "Today, millions of people are happier due to your vision and hard work," the minister added while referring the AKRSP endeavors.

The AKRSP and replication of its model all over the country has proved that it is not only small NGOs or idealists from the 1960s that pursue grass roots development, but that this model of development works better at targeting the poor and even more so when the economy is growing and opportunities are expanding, observed the finance minister.

Lauding the achievements of the AKRSP, Shaukat Aziz said the World Bank evaluations have shown that the real per capita income in the AKRSP programme area has doubled over the last decade.

"These facts hold tremendous hope for Pakistan." Referring to the poverty alleviation, the minister said the expenditure under the PRSP has been increased to 5.4 per cent of the GDP this year as compared to the 5.2 per cent last year. "A number of measures have been taken to form part of the safety net for the poor," he said, adding the development expenditure has also been increased this year to Rs 160 billion.